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13th-century poet Rumi wrote: “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”
What if instead of finding all the barriers we have built against love though, we find all the barriers that we have built against becoming love and let them go?
When I think of a world where everyone engages in a practice like that, I imagine a world where everyone embodies kindness, generosity, and compassion and genuinely cares about the well-being and happiness of all beings.
In Buddhism, mind-heart qualities like loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy for the happiness of others, and equanimity are called divine abodes or the four immeasurables which are said to be the only mind states that arise once one becomes liberated.
I imagine Buddhist masters the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh as beings who emanate the divine abodes. The Dalai Lama describes his practice as a peaceful path of kindness, love, compassion, and not harming others that has become a part of him.
Quotes from the Dalai Lama on these qualities include:
“The basic fact is that humanity survives through kindness, love, and compassion. That human beings can develop these qualities is their real blessing.”
“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”
“Compassion is the wish to see others free from suffering.”
“A truly compassionate attitude toward others does not change even if they behave negatively or hurt you.”
“Love is the absence of judgment.”
“The more you are motivated by love, the more fearless and free your action will be.”
“Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.”
Supportive phrases and prayers we can offer ourselves from Thich Nhat Hanh:
“1. Darling, I am here for you.
2. I know you are there, and I am very happy.
3. Darling, I know you suffer.
4. Darling, I suffer. Please help.”
~May I be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.
~May I be free from injury. May I live in safety.
~May I be free from disturbance, fear, and anxiety.
~May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and of love.
~May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself.
~May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in myself.
~May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself every day.
~May I be able to live fresh, solid and free.
~May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.
Certainly a heart-centered way of living has its risks and can be the polar opposite of the way many of us are raised to engage in the world and yet the opposite of it isn’t safe either. My upbringing prepared me to be in full body armor at all times and I wasn’t safe. I wasn’t protected. I was just hiding, not truly living life. Over the years of practice though it seems like that armor has slowly dissolved on its own.
Along with being with practices such as the divine abodes so frequently that they become a part of our nature, heart-centered living entails a radical self-love and care. That kind of care is expressed beautifully in these pieces by poets Khalil Gibran and Nayyirah Waheed:
What does radical self-love and care look like for you?
For me, I feed all of my wounded parts jam and stroke their hair, deeply listening and nourishing them, and loving them as I love all the parts within me. I work with the resistances I have built to protect myself from getting hurt that have in actuality kept me from love. I relinquish my baggage, my stories, my dwellings on the past and projections of the future. I love myself in my entirety in a world set up for me not even to love the smallest aspects of myself. With a love like that emanating through my day, what could I have to fear?